A host of foreign dignitaries gathered to witness the swearing-in of Barack Obama yesterday, but Palestine’s envoy to the United States, Maen Rashid Areikat, was nowhere to be found. His invitation apparently got lost in the mail.
In an interview with the National, a newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates, Areikat says it might have happened because Palestine isn’t on the U.S.’s official diplomatic list of fully-fledged states. “When we checked last they told us that because we changed addresses and emails . . . ” he explains, his voice trailing off. “It could be technical, it could be logistical. But I don’t feel angry.”
Whether intentional or not, the snub reflects how many Palestinians feel the U.S. treats their prospects for sovereignty, according to the National. Areikat says he probably won’t watch the inauguration on TV, but he did call the event “revolutionary” and a “great inspiration.”
“The fact that it’s being held on Martin Luther King Day,” he says, “should be reason for all Americans to understand that dignity, liberty and justice are universal principles.”
Pomp and circumstance fit for a queen
In Britain, the Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland notes the inauguration is the one day Americans allow their president to enjoy — in public — all the luxurious trappings of power. On the occasion of his swearing-in, the president — who is normally supposed to be a “man of the people” — becomes something more akin to, well, a monarch.
On Monday the avowedly egalitarian United States – which rejected all things regal when it broke from the British mother-country, insisting its president be known not as His Majesty but as plain Mister – anoints its leader with as much ceremony and ritual as it can muster. The oath, the address, the anthem, the parade: all that’s missing is the Queen’s golden coach.
Thank god the First Daughters are too young to get hitched. We get enough royal family drama as it is.
Meanwhile, the right-of-center Spectator compares Obama to another British leader: Prime Minister David Cameron. Obama’s upbeat inauguration speech, writes Fraser Nelson, shows how far the U.S. is moving away from its old ally. While David Cameron speaks of terrorists in Africa as a once-in-a-generation threat, Nelson argues, Obama has turned his vision to peace and global prosperity, away from the ancient Atlantic and towards the booming nations of Asia.
[I]t’s not that Obama doesn’t like us. The truth is more hurtful: he’s just not that into us. For him, the future lies in the East – and the West’s problems with troublesome African tribes is not too big a blip on his horizon. We have just watched the inauguration of the Pacific President.
An all-inclusive inauguration
Under the headline “An all-American day: Obama calls for one nation, one people,” J. Brooks Spector, a former U.S. diplomat who now lives in South Africa, gives an extensive and positive report on the inclusive message of the president’s second inaugural speech. He concludes:
Finally, on a rather personal note, this writer admits the inauguration made him feel very proud to be an American as he watched along with hundreds of other Americans who had gathered in a Johannesburg hotel to watch the event. Seeing the multitudes spread out across the Mall in Washington on the giant video screen, looking at the excitement palpable on so many faces, and listening to this vigorous restatement of some basic American principles, the angels of our collective better natures seemed very tangible, very close and very real, at least for this one day in January.
Overall there’s cautious optimism from Africa about Obama’s second term. The Nigerian newspaper the Daily Trust points out that UN Ambassador Susan Rice becoming Secretary of State would have been greeted with dismay in Africa because she was “widely identified with a policy of the American government ‘looking the other way’ as the massacre of almost one million Hutu refugees got underway as they took shelter in United Nations-administered camps in eastern DR Congo from the war in Rwanda.”
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, on the other hand, has personal links with Africa: his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry was born in Mozambique and went to university in South Africa. What’s more, as J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC points out, policy towards Africa is one of the few areas where there is bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill.
Africa is an exciting prospect because of its economic growth – according to the International Monetary Fund, GDP across the continent grew by 4.6% in 2012 thanks to remittances sent home by Africans living abroad and to the growing trade in raw minerals. But watch out: China accounts for 50% of the demand for these metals. The question for the White House is how to engage with Africa and China at the same time.
Meanwhile, the talking heads of U.S. television networks focused on the president’s words about the need for a “better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.” And so did the popular Jamaican daily, the Gleaner. It’s impossible to estimate exactly how many Jamaicans are in the U.S. because a high number are here without immigration papers, but some experts say there could be more than one million.
Patrick Beckford, chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board, said Obama’s insights on the immigration-reform agenda were particularly significant in light of the plethora of undocumented and unemployed Jamaicans languishing in the US. ‘From an immigration perspective, that will affect us tremendously in our community because many Jamaicans are affected and it impacts the Jamaican population as many are parents with children left behind in Jamaica …’